"Panic Rooms" -- you've probably heard about them, read about them, saw a scary movie about them, etc. Or you might even have one...
Panic rooms are the special rooms built into a home where, if you feel scared or in danger, you can run into and be safe . Depending on your budget, they can be really simple or super elaborate. But at the end of the day they are built for one reason -- to lock you away from what threatens you.
When it comes to the times in my life when I feel threatened, or anxious, or afraid -- not from a physical threat, but the rather the turmoil in my life -- I have a place that I naturally, or instinctively, run to to find shelter and solace.
I wish I could say that I always find my solace and safety in God alone, and the truth is I do turn to him and cry out to him for relief. But I find, if time drags on and I feel that my world is crashing in on me, I have a tendency to turn to another more natural alternative as my 'safe' place. For me that alternative is stories.
I will download and listen to digital books one right after another - even at night while I am going to sleep. I will binge watch a series on Netflix. I will read anything I can get my hands on. I will listen to talk radio. I will do anything to fill my mind with someone else's thoughts and words. In it all, I am hoping that all those thoughts and words will be strong enough walls and doors to keep me safe from the thoughts and fears that are plaguing me.
I don't know what your 'natural' panic room is, but I feel that we all have one. For some it is alcohol, for others drugs. Some try and use porn or sex to shield them from the pain in their lives. Others are compulsive talkers or gossips that use discussing others as a defense against honestly dealing with the problems in their own lives. For many guys it is sports and recreation. I even know some that find their safe room at the end of a hose or hoe in the garden.
The thing is, when we run into that natural panic room and lock the door, we have locked ourselves in alone. Far from cutting ourselves off from what threatens us, we are now actually trapped alone with all our worries, doubts, fears, wounding and pain. We have not found a truly safe place. Rather, it is just a place where we can try to repress and suppress what is eating us up.
The sad truth is that the time I spend there is time that I could have availed myself of the true safety and security that God has provided for me. My spiritual 'panic room' has two aspects:
The Safety of Candid Conversations with God
While I may not feel it at the time, there is one indisputable reality that is a strong wall of protection and safety -- God's promise of his abiding presence. It is incredible to think that even on my worst day, when I have hit rock bottom and failed miserably, God's promise of "I will never leave you or forsake you" is still as sure and valid as it is on my 'best' day. That is because his nearness is based on his own essential love and faithfulness and not on my ability to perform or please him. He is 'crazy about me' because I am his child, I am in Christ and I am the apple of his eye by his own work and word. And there is no safer place than being in the arms of a loving God!
But the key to realizing the value of that safe place is being willing to talk to him candidly and honestly about everything that is going on in my life. Just pouring out my heart with all sincerity and vulnerability is the door to that safe place. Too often we couch our prayers in all kind of spiritual language and platitudes, when our minds are filled with the language of fear and pain and anger. We need to be willing to speak plainly with God about all that is in our minds! The great example of that is David in the Psalms. He said exactly what he was thinking, both when he was complaining about God's seeming abandonment of him to his enemies, and when he was singing God's high praises. David was authentic with God and if we are to know the safety of his presence we also need to be authentic with him as well.
The Safety of Candid Conversation with Protectors
One of the great blessings of salvation is that God has brought us into family, into community with others. Ideally we have been establishing relationships of increasing trust in the midst of that community and when we get into times of real suffering, fear or anxiety we have those that we can turn to for protection.
My protectors are ones that I can be truly open, honest and authentic with. They are the ones that I trust to know my story and I have confidence that they can bear it. They know the worst about me and they are always there for me, loving me and standing for me.They are not about dispensing advice, recommending a program, outlining a process or delivering a promise.
They are the people in my life that are safe and trusted enough that when the moment comes and God is doing something truly profound in my life, they provide the strength, support and encouragement I need to not run from it or hide from it. They protect me from my worries, doubts and fears and help me face what God is doing and embrace it and in love trust God completely for it. They are the human instruments through whom God tangibly communicates his love, acceptance, commitment and support.
Again, the key to having and using this resource is openness. I need to be willing to tell on myself, before I fail miserably, so that they can come along side and protect me from my worst day. This is so much more humbling than being 'accountable' for my behavior, because for them to protect me I need to have the candid conversations that bring everything into the light. This is really a scary and vulnerable place, but nonetheless it is the key to my protection because only in that place were nothing is hidden am I truly safe!
So the next time the world is caving in on you, think about the value of having a spiritual safe room where you are completely candid with God and those committed to your protection.